When A 3AM Wakeup Call Is Essential: Making The Most of Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

Around here, there are a few travel truths we live by—discover lots, support local, eat well—but one we don't talk about as much? Staying active. Getting out and about when on the road gives you a sense of place, some lay of the land, and for food lovers like us, it's how we earn our next meal. Hawaii has a ton of opportunities to do just that from sand and sea to the hiking (on coastal cliffs! under waterfalls!) and the parks (the Grand Canyon Of The Pacific!!). 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park System so I wanted to highlight one park in particular: Halekala National Park.

Talk to anyone about Maui and sooner or later they'll mention Haleakala (aka the house of the sun). Sitting 10,000 feet above sea level, this dormant volcano is one of the best places on earth to watch sunrise. Go on a clear morning and there is a 360° view that includes Big Island to the south and Molokai to the north. On my recent trip, I woke up at 3AM to summit Haleakala in time for sunrise. I'm NOT a morning person, but, after experiencing it first hand, I'm gonna join in on the insisting and say you have to make time for it next time you're on Maui.

It took some digging around to figure out the best plan for making sunrise happen, so, to make it easier on you, I'm sharing 10 tips for how to do sunrise at Halekala National Park

Silhouettes at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comFirst Light at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.com

Stay Upcountry

The night before you go, stay upcountry in the Kula or Makawao areas (the Lumeria Maui is a good option), so that you only have to drive from the park entrance to the summit, which still takes well over an hour FYI.  Speaking of, you'll want to arrive about 30 minutes before sunrise so you have time to park, settle in, and take in the experience. 

Fuel Up (Both You And Your Car)

Depending on the time of year and where you start driving from, you'll need to drive for anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours to reach the summit. You'll want to start early and, if you're like me, eat something small so you don't get nauseous (you will, after all, be driving up to 10,000 feet). Oh, there is NO gas in the park so make sure your gas gague is full. 

Pack Layers

It gets cold—for Hawaii, at least—at the summit, so pack layers. I had my Patagonia nanopuff (which pretty much goes with me everywhere), but I could have also used a hat and gloves since it was about 40°F the morning I went.

And Provisions

If you plan on staying a bit afterwards (which you should because the park is beautiful), bring along some water and snacks, even if it's just a banana or two. 

Prep Your Tech

Take time to enjoy the experience without any technology so you can take it all in. After that you're going to want to take some photos, so make sure your camera has plenty of storage, a full battery, and a clean lens.

Go On A Weekday

There will be fewer people if you go on a weekday morning. But, if you can't swing that, go on the weekend and planto take one of the short trails up and away from the Visitor Center (and crowds) so you can enjoy sunrise in solitude. 

Take Your Time

There are a lot of tour groups that take people up for sunrise and then bolt, which is such a shame because those people miss out on the rest of the park. Instead of fighting traffic down the hill, hang around a bit be it to hike the Sliding Sands Trail, check the sandlewood trees at Hosmer Grove, or just pull over to glance at the silverswords.

Stop in Makawao For Brekkie

If you're at all like me, you'll be starving once you finally leave the park, so stop in the historic town of Makawao on your way back down. Head to T Komoda Store & Bakery if you want to treat yourself—as in have what is argued to be the best malasada on Maui. Or, if juices and gluten free breakfast is more your speed, head to the adorable shop, Sip Me, that was bustling all morning when I visited. 

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comVisitors Center at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comLayered up at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comDrive To Summit at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comSliding Sands at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comSunrise Flare at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.com

Summit Walk at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comDrive Up Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.comWatching Sunrise at Haleakala National Park | @saltandwind | www.saltandwind.com 


Photos by Aida Mollenkamp and Chris Kalima

This trip was sponsored by Visit Maui but all content, ideas, and words are our own. Thanks for supporting these sponsors who allow us to keep Salt & Wind up and running.

Hitting the road soon? Show us how you travel in good taste by sharing your adventures on Instagram with the #swsociety hashtag!

Comments